changes

So Long TravelAbrodge-Tristen-Hair

When I was 17 I donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love. I had always had long hair and knew I had plenty to donate, so, prompted by the suggestion of a friend that we do it together, I sent in my long locks to help a kid who had lost their hair to cancer treatments.

12 years later, I found myself thinking that I was going to lose my hair to cancer treatments. I went through a period when I was really convinced that it had spread beyond the tumor and the only solution would be chemical. I realize that not all chemo results in hair loss, but when you’re still in the questions part of being told you have cancer your mind can’t help but go there. It took me 2.5 years to get hair this long again, and it was all about to be for nothing. So I started wrapping my head around the idea of a hairless me, and for a while a pixie haircut me, and it actually didn’t take long to feel okay about it. It’s just hair, after all.

I didn’t have to go through chemo. The cancer was localized, removed with surgery, and no chemicals were necessary for my recovery process (with the exception of that fun week of oxycodone). But other people still did have to go through chemo. Millions of women around the world have had thoughts like I had, and actually had to go through with it. Suddenly my long hair didn’t seem so great anymore.

So I cut it off. My hair will grow back, fairly quickly, but those women may not have that option. So this time I sent it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths. They, partnered with the American Cancer Society, make real-hair wigs specifically for adult women who have lost their hair in their battle with cancer. I don’t know these women, but I feel like, in some way, they are my kindred, and I want to help them.

That’s not the only reason I cut my hair off. The last time I cut my hair was June 2014. Yes, you read that correctly. Two and a half years ago, the day before I left to travel the world, I cut my hair the shortest I’ve ever had it. It was for maintenance; shorter hair seemed easier to deal with on the road. As my travels continued so did my hair growth. Then when I came home, I was too distracted and uncaring to go for a very necessary trim. So I’ve been carrying around 2.5-years-worth of hair.

My TravelAbrodge hair. My cancer hair.

It’s time for a change. This last phase of my life was simultaneously the most incredible and most difficult so far. From achieving my life’s goal of long-term solo travel to being told I had cancer, my highest highs and lowest lows have happened in the past 2.5 years, while this hair was growing. And now it’s come to an end. So it’s time to move on, start over, and this is just one little way to begin again. Goodbye TravelAbrodge-Tristen-Hair. It’s been quite the journey.

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Leaving Antigua

Where to begin?

I am leaving Antigua. The place that has become my home, that I have found a community, friends, family, that I have cared for puppies, that I have lived with a boyfriend, that I have talked up as a bartender and become a presence in as a manager, that I have lived abroad. It’s not an easy choice to leave such a place, but I knew one day it would come.

I didn’t know the circumstances under which it would happen. Simultaneously making the choice easy and difficult on the level of leaving San Francisco, there were clear factors that led me here.

I had a one way flight to New York in June. Going for a wedding, staying for a surgery that had an unknown timeline, I couldn’t predict how long I would need to be in my home country. My best guess was a month or two. With an impending trip like this it obviously made me take a closer look at my life, my priorities, my goals for the rest of the year. I haven’t been one to plan ahead too much in the past year but with ideas like Oktoberfest and the fact that I’ve been away from my profession for two years already I started to seriously think about some things.

Oktoberfest. The idea had come up to go with my best friends and, having wanted to experience this epic German festival most of my life, I couldn’t say no. Before I got locked into a lifestyle of limited vacation it seemed like the best way to blow the rest of my savings. And I’ve talked about visiting Europe for a year now to see if I wanted to live there. Oktoberfest could be the start of a research trip that would show me my next move.

I love bartending. I love Cafe No Se. I love the conversations and the people and the atmosphere. I love that my job is making sure people have a good night. I miss architecture. I miss working towards a project, pulling together something tangible, something that I’m proud of, winning a job. I left my career at a crossroads, when I was offered a manager position most people would kill for. I would have at one point. As my friends move into these roles I question where in the ranks I will have to reenter the architecture world. Will I have to start over again as I did at 22? How long can I rely on 5 years of experience? I’ve been away from it almost half as long as I was in it. But the realization that I want to go back to my former profession was enough to make me rethink my return to Antigua.

The people of Antigua made me stay here. The people of Antigua were making it nearly impossible to leave. Brayan has meant so much to me, from the time when we were just good friends wandering Mexico together to the deepest points of our relationship, and I am incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life. But as our relationship ran its course, I wondered if I could have a life in Antigua without him. My No Se family made me think it was possible. In the last two weeks before leaving I felt like I truly had found my people. They had me thinking about coming back when I’d already decided I wouldn’t. They have me thinking about coming back periodically over the years even after I have gone. But I have people at home, people I have missed dearly, that cannot be ignored. I do not take for granted how lucky I am to know so many terrific people that I feel pulled in so many directions.

I have loved being a nomad. The traveler life is one I took to instantly and lauded to any and everyone who would listen to me. Leaving to travel was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But there are things I have started to miss.

I miss winter. I miss cities. I miss walking on paved sidewalks in heeled boots. I miss sipping on a hot beverage because the air is brisk outside. I miss having my things in a place that I know I don’t have to leave. I miss sushi dinners with my friends. I miss the holidays with my family.

Trust me when I say this was a decision that haunted me for weeks before it came to fruition. I am positive I will have moments of doubt, I will look at flight prices, I will consider going back for just a month if I have it between surgery and Oktoberfest or Europe and a new job. And I am okay with that, because it is just further proof that Antigua was the right decision for me. That my time there meant the world to me. And that I will always consider it to be one of my homes.

(May 30, 2016)

Thoughts from Wellington

October 22, 2014. “As I walked to my 7:50 am bus through the Wellington bus and train stations I passed hordes of commuters on their way to work. A familiar feeling rose up inside me of the morning grind – oddly more related to NYC, probably because of the subway tunnel and train station, but work commuting nonetheless. This used to be me every weekday. This was my life. I was one of you.

Used to. Was. This is when the camaraderie faded away and I became a foreigner. Walking past all the people in their suits with their briefcases, I was in hiking shoes carrying a backpack on my way to a bus to Rotorua. I was like them but I’m not anymore. I left that life and became the traveler, no more a member of the daily grind.

I smiled. Maybe one day I would rejoin the ranks but for now I’m off adventuring, with no obligations, no schedules, no suits. I broke free and took control of my life. This is my time. And what do I want to do with my time today? Go chill in some hot springs. Sounds a lot better than sitting in an office right?”

Bon Voyages

Over the past month I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people. I’ve moved out of the city I loved with some of the best people I’ve ever known, I’ve reconnected with college and high school friends only to say bye again, and I’ve gotten together with family in a wonderful sendoff celebration.

All of these goodbyes have been sad, and they’ve made this very real. But more than anything, they’ve reminded me of all the fantastic, supportive people I have in my life. For that I am forever thankful. I will miss you all so much.

I know I am looking forward to taking a break from our hyper-connected technological world for a bit, but I can’t help but feel grateful that the same technology I’m escaping will allow me to keep in touch from wherever I am in the world. Through this blog, through email, facebook messaging, google hangouts, and WhatsApp (yes I have decided to bring my iPhone as a wireless device), I will at least be able to say some quick hellos and hopefully have some great catch-up sessions while I’m away.

And maybe I’ll be able to convince more people to join me. Or at the very least, I’ll be able to feel like it hasn’t been so long when I see everyone again upon my return.

So for now, all of you have been a part of this journey already. Thanks for everything, thanks for following so far, and I will try my best to follow through on my promise to keep this blog updated so you can all come along with me, at least virtually.

9 hours till my flight.

Auf Wiedersehen, USA.

Transition Time

I’m in limbo right now. I have left San Francisco, but I haven’t left for the big trip yet. This is the time frame that when people would ask “when do you leave?” would cause me to hesitate over my answer – “leave San Francisco or leave for the trip?” Often I would get the response: “both!”

So here I am at part 1 of 2 of that answer. I left San Francisco on Wednesday May 28, but I am still in the country till June 21.

It still hasn’t sunk in at all that I moved away from SF. I think part of it has to do with how hard it was to say goodbye to everyone and to the city that I grew to love so much. I haven’t thought about it enough to process it, and honestly I’m kind of avoiding thinking about it much because I’m a little worried about what will happen when I do finally process it (the reason this post is not about that, I’m not ready for that post yet).

The other part is that I feel like I’m just on vacation. Less than 24 hours after flying out I was already in a car on my way to my 5 year college reunion, which I just got back from late last night. There’s no better way to ignore the emotion that comes with moving out of SF than spending a long weekend pretending you’re in college again. And there’s no better way to recover from that kind of a weekend than not having to go to work after it – I slept for half of today.

Due to all of this – moving, goodbyes, reunion – I have a lot of posts I need to catch up on. I sat down to write about things like how I did on my SF bucket list, my travel insurance decision, and the pain of moving all of my stuff out and shipping it across the country. Instead I find myself writing this noncommittal post about how I am physically and mentally in between the realities of SF and my trip. I have a feeling these posts I mean to be writing will be usurped by more reflective posts about what it’s like to be unemployed and homeless, and beginning to spend all the money that I just spent 5 years saving.

So for now, I am just trying to recover from the craziness that was the month of May. For the next few weeks I’m spending my time with family in New Jersey and friends in New York City. The farewells will continue, just like the planning, and I’m still working on processing the fact that this adventure is beginning.

But that is the reality for me right now – this adventure is beginning.

3 Year One Way Anniversary

NY to SF 3 Years Ago

NY to SF 3 Years Ago

Today is my 3 year anniversary of moving to San Francisco. Which means it’s also the anniversary of the first one way ticket I ever bought.

Traveling one way felt so final. Until that point I’d had round trip journeys – college was limited to 4 years from the start, my flight to study abroad in Germany was 5 months before my return but still round trip, and while living in New York City was a move I always knew I wouldn’t be there forever. The move to San Francisco was the first big decision I made that felt so profoundly life-changing.

Now, on my 3 year anniversary of this first one way adventure, I find myself in a place where I have purchased 7 one way tickets in the past month. SEVEN.

I’m going to take a second and let that sink in. Because that is sort of insane…

 

I remember moving to San Francisco like it was only 3 days ago. While I could write a whole separate blog full of anecdotes about my love for this place and all the people I know here, what stands out for this blog is what that move meant to me in relation to this trip.

After graduating college I landed in NYC more by convenience than desire. Graduating with no job and in the middle of a recession, I applied to internships in the closest metropolis I could, which, being from New Jersey, is NYC. After my internship turned into a full time job I moved into the city. I’m happy I did, I always liked the city and had thought about living there so I wanted to try it out, but it was never meant to be final. I had a plan – NYC for 3 years, travel for a year, then move to SF.

See, San Francisco was my end goal. I had visited family in SF many times growing up and fell in love with it. I knew one day I would be here, and everyone who knew me knew that was my goal. So when I was offered a job for an amazing architecture firm in my dream city, I couldn’t turn it down, it was too good to be true. It was also too early. It meant I had to adjust my plan and move to my dream city before doing my trip.

I viewed this is as a delay, not a cancellation, of the trip. And when I moved out here, instead of thinking I ended up at my destination too soon, I saw it as a sign that I could follow through on my convictions. I had talked about moving to San Francisco for so long and I finally did it. I left behind my comfortable East Coast life (grew up in NJ, college in upstate NY, apartment in NYC) and most of my close friends and immediate family and set off to live a dream.

It has been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons, not the least of which was proving to myself that one day I would have the courage to make the same decision to take off on my trip.

Now that I’ve made this next decision, I am as excited and nervous as I was then, which actually gives me some comfort. If I was right with that risk, I’m sure I’ll be right with this one. So while it’s a little odd to celebrate an anniversary of somewhere I’m about to move out of, it is also a celebration of the confirmation of how right that one way flight can be.

And besides that, my 3 years here are completely worth celebrating. They’ve been some of the best years of my life and I love this city. One day I hope to return and stay for good. Assuming, that is, that after this trip I’ll ever be able to stay in one place for good.

The Revised Plan

About three months after I wrote my first list, I started to freak out a little. I had been looking into flights and timelines, and realized that I was committing to an outline through June of 2015. Doubts started coming to mind about whether I should lock myself into a whole year on the road. I’ve never traveled alone for that long before, can I really make it a year?

Also as I was looking at RTW tickets I was being locked into starting and stopping in the same country. So on the reverse side, what if I didn’t want to come back at the end of a year? I’ve always wanted to live in Europe again, but these tickets weren’t letting me have that option, I had to come back to the U.S. Will I want to?

And as I told people about the last leg of my trip – Middle East and Africa – the general response was concern for my safety. I realize that traveling alone as an American girl is going to have its challenges. I do think that I’m a very aware traveler and I will keep updated on where I should and should not go. But this feeling of uncertainty started to sink it. How could I know what the world will be like in 2015?

So I thought a lot about what I’m doing and had some key conversations, and I was reminded that this trip is entirely my choice. Sure I started out thinking it was a year and I’d hit all my original pillars, but if I’m feeling unsettled about it I can change it so that I feel better. I thought more about how I could make this is a trip that was more on the exciting side than the terrifying side (although it will still always have both elements) and eventually came around to a compromise that made me feel worlds better.

9 months up front. No return flight.

I came to the 9 month mark because of three points in the trip: 1) starting in June, I could start at the World Cup, somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going, and somewhere I knew I had friends to help me kick this journey off; 2) my family agreed to Christmas in Thailand, giving me visitors to look forward to and a little taste of home 6 months in; 3) a friend decided to come to India with me in February 2015, so I would again have a friendly face and wouldn’t be alone in India. This gave me a structure that I felt good about and the timing worked out to hit pillars 1, 2, 4, and 6. This is how I ended up with the route that is on my Itinerary page.

Not having a return flight gives me freedom, and that freedom was relieving. Now in March of 2015, if I want to keep going and make it to 3, 5, and 7, I can. Or if I want to go live in Europe I can. Or if I’m exhausted and need to come home, also possible. Or maybe I just did not have enough time somewhere and I can go back. I’ll be halfway around the world with endless possibilities and that became the most exciting part of this plan.

The most important thing I learned from all of this: this trip will evolve. No matter how I set out, anything could happen along the way, and I have to be open to it and ready to just go with it. If necessary, I can and should change whatever I need to to make this experience the best that it can be for me.

Which includes not totally freaking out when I think about leaving. I’m happy I’m past that point.